Firefighter demo puts cutbacks in spotlight

by Gazette Reporter

DUBLIN fire fighters walked in solidarity with their colleagues from all across the country during a national protest against cuts to crewing levels which they say could jeopardise the safety of both firefighters and the public.
Around 300 firefighters stood in Parnell Square on Tuesday, February 24 before making their way to Kildare Street, where they rallied outside Dail Eireann.
The national protest, organised by unions SIPTU and Impact, follows a move by the Department of the Environment to seek to implement crewing level reductions for some fires as part of its Keeping Communities Safe plan.
Speaking to The Gazette, Gerry Harris, firefighter and SIPTU spokesman for Dublin Fire Brigade, said: “It is about health and safety and our ability to look after ourselves and the public.
“At the moment, a fire appliance [engine] in Dublin would have one officer and four firefighters. We don’t just send one, we send more than one because we don’t know what we are dealing with until we get there.
“In Dublin – say for a domestic fire – we would send three fire appliances. The reason is because we have never had a risk assessment for this city, so to ensure the safety of workers, we send three [appliances] – three officers, and 12 firefighters.
“This plan would see two officers and seven firefighters – a reduction of five. Seven is not enough; internationally, it is 10,” he said.
SIPTU sector organiser Brendan O’Brien said firefighter members of SIPTU and Impact marched to show their “opposition” to attempts by the Government to “unilaterally implement reductions in crewing levels which could jeopardise the safety of both firefighters and the public”.
SIPTU National Full-Time Firefighter Committee chairman Brendan Carroll said the planned changes “threaten the effectiveness of the fire service”.
Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly, who acknowledged the valuable fire service provided to communities, said local authority funding for fire services has been maintained despite a general reduction in local government spending, and staff numbers in firefighter services have not been reduced in four years.
He said: “We want to strengthen and enhance the fire service in Ireland. The door remains open to SIPTU and other trade union bodies for further talks on the future operation of the fire services.”

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